Travel Industry Sounds Cautious Note on New Travel Ban

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The day after the Trump administration issued a revised travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority countries, industry officials are sounding a cautious note on the order’s impact on travel.

American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) President and CEO Zane Kerby said that the organization would continue to “monitor the situation closely with an eye toward any impact on our members’ businesses, and will do everything possible to ensure member are kept up to date, able to serve their clients and prepare them for any disruptions that might occur.”

Kerby noted that, following the release of the original ban, ASTA had asked that the administration set “clear rules of the road” so that any travel disruptions caused by the order are kept to a minimum.

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“In that regard, the process for rolling out this new order appears improved but again we intend to keep a close eye on these developments as they unfold,” Kerby said. “Minimizing uncertainty and disruption is important to allowing the traveling public to maintain confidence in an industry so vital to our nation’s economy.”

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) called the new ban an improvement, citing its narrower scope and greater clarity, but warned against any unnecessary disruptions to the travel industry.

“Any increased restrictions on passenger travel must be based in safety and security to ensure that the ability to travel is not impeded unnecessarily,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and CEO. “It will remain a focus of the business travel industry to hold disruptions to a minimum, and we will continue to monitor the implementation of this ban closely.”

The GBTA also said it would poll its global membership on the revised order’s impact on business travel.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow struck a similar note in his response.

“The American travel community supports efforts to bolster national security, and the Trump administration deserves some credit for the substantially more cautious and deliberate introduction of the revised executive order,” said Dow. “Cabinet officials were on the right track with public statements welcoming lawful visa holders into the U.S. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the administration fully seized the opportunity to differentiate between the potential security risks targeted by the order and the legitimate business and leisure visitors from abroad who support 15.1 million American jobs.”

Dow said that it remains an open question as to whether or not the revised order will mollify prospective travelers from Canada, Europe or other destinations who may have been put off by the initial ban, promising that solid data on the initial ban’s impact would become available in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, early signs of the policy’s impact are mixed. According to just-released data from the U.S. Travel Association, international travel to the United States grew 7.8 percent year over year in January, marking the eight straight year of expansion – but U.S. Travel officials were quick to caution that most of this data had been collected prior to the initial ban, which was issued January 27. Another new report from New York’s destination marketing organization, NYC & Company, claimed that the ban was hurting inbound travel to New York, with NYC & Company forecasting a 2.1 percent decline in international visitors – the first since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008.

“These restrictions are creating an image problem for many international travelers, regardless if they’re included in the ban or not,” said NYC & Company spokesperson Chris Heywood.

In terms of outbound travel, the travelhorizons survey of U.S. travelers by MMGY Global found that 43 percent of respondents felt that their outbound international travel plans would be impacted by the Trump administration, although responses differed based on age and party affiliation. 52 percent of Democrats felt that the Trump administration will have some impact on their choice of international vacation destinations, while 31 percent of Republicans felt the same way. By age, 56 percent of Millennials felt that the Trump administration will have some impact on their international vacation choices, compared to 33 percent of Xers, 15 percent of Young Boomers, 29 percent of Older Boomers and 30 percent of Matures.

As previously reported, the new ban drops Iraq from the list of banned countries, instead applying to Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya – the other six countries from the original list. The new order also suspends the United States’ refugee program for 120 days, and lowers the cap on refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 per year.

Other changes: travelers from the affected countries who are legal permanent residents of the United States, dual nationals who use a passport from another country and those who have been granted asylum or refugee status are exempt from the new order. Additionally, current visa holders will be able to get into the country, although those whose visas expire will have to reapply.

For the latest on travel industry trends and research, stay tuned to our page of statistics and reports from around the travel industry.